German SPD approves grand coalition with Merkel

Berlin, Dec 15: An internal vote of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) approved a coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, the SPD announced Saturday.

The move clears the way for Germany’s two biggest parties to rule Europe’s biggest economy for the next four years, Xinhua reported.

About 76 percent of all the valid ballots cast were in favour of a grand coalition with Merkel’s conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), SPD treasurer Barbara Hendricks told reporters.

SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel said the party has “set a new standard” in terms of member participation and is “not only the oldest but also the most modern party” in Germany.

Following the positive vote outcome, the cabinet composition will see the light of day Sunday, according to media reports.

Negotiators of coalition talks had said the CDU and the SPD will get six ministerial posts each, and the CSU will take three. Gabriel is expected to become Merkel’s vice chancellor.

Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left social democrats reached a deal Nov 27 to form a grand coalition after five weeks of talks since the Sep 22 general elections.

However, the agreement still has to be approved by SPD members in a party referendum. A grand coalition can only become a reality if a majority of SPD voters backs the proposed coalition deal.

Till Thursday night, more than 333,000 party members, or 70 percent of all eligible ones, had submitted postal ballots to express opinions about whether the SPD should enter another coalition government with Merkel’s bloc.

The SPD previously formed a grand coalition with the CDU/CSU block under Merkel in 2005-2009.

If everything goes well, party leaders will officially sign the coalition agreement Monday. Merkel is expected to be reelected chancellor in a vote in the lower house of parliament Tuesday and the new coalition will then be sworn into office.

IANS